Is it safe to eat meat from genetically modified animals?

Scientific progress has evolved to the point where scientists can edit the genes of plants and animals. Recently, German researchers decided to raise a generation of pigs that are genetically modified so that their organs are suitable for transplantation into human bodies. It is expected that in this way it will be possible to solve the problem of the shortage of donor organs and save the lives of millions of people.

Genetic engineering is already being used extensively in agriculture: scientists are changing the genes of plants so that they taste better, do not cause allergies, yield more and generally are better. The use of genetically modified fruits and vegetables is officially allowed, but until recently this could not be said for animals.

Some scientists are modifying the genes of cattle to make them better too – there are already cows in the world that have been raised with short wool to increase their stamina in hot weather. But is their meat safe to eat?

Most animal species don’t need to have their genes altered – we’re mostly talking about wild specimens. But large livestock are a source of milk, meat, wool and other useful resources for people. They need to be protected from infections, parasites and heat, because at a minimum, cows in excessively warm conditions produce less milk, gain weight slowly and are reluctant to reproduce. Preventing them from overheating is possible by equipping farms with expensive ventilation systems, air conditioning and other devices. But it is more profitable to simply use genetic engineering and develop a breed that is not affected by heat.

The technology is fairly new, so scientists use it with caution, increasing the complexity each time. A group of New Zealand biologists successfully changed the body color of Holstein calves from black and white to gray and white. The lighter coat was supposed to make it easier for them to survive the summer days.

The experiment proved successful, so another group of scientists from Acceligen recently decided to go further and use the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing tool to reduce cow hair length. As expected, the born calves turned out to be more resistant to heat because the shorter wool allows for better regulation of body temperature. The genetically modified cows were named PRLR-SLICK.

Cows not only give milk, but are also a source of nutritious meat. But you can’t eat genetically modified animals right away – first the regulatory authorities have to make sure they are safe for human health. Normally, meat from salmon, pigs and other GMO animals is evaluated over several years.

Such creatures do exist: AquAdvantage modified salmon, unlike their wild relatives, grow for a year, and GalSafe pigs do not cause allergies. PRLR-SLICK cows were also tested for meat safety, but the process was short-lived – FDA members approved their meat for consumption just a few months from the date of application.

The inspection took place in record time because the mutation responsible for short hair growth is already found in short-haired cows that were bred through traditional crossbreeding. Their meat has already been tested for safety for the human body, and scientists have not noticed any side effects.

Genetically modified cows, pigs and other animals are literally programmed to give people more wholesome resources. Thanks to the intervention of scientists, cattle will suffer less from heat and provide farmers with milk, meat and offspring.

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